I’m just back from the NCSM and NCTM national conferences in Indianapolis. I have nothing but kind words for the city and venues for the conferences. It is a wonderful location for a conference; additionally, I highly recommend the haggis at MacNiven’s Restaurant and Bar on Massachusetts Ave.
As I walked through the exhibit hall, I was struck by all the textbooks that were plastered with labels claiming they were Common Core Aligned/Ready/Optimized/… What does this new label mean? What can I assume about materials that state they are Common Core Aligned? I can assume that the book has a newly designed cover, that’s it.
I found two versions of these new “aligned” textbooks:
- Textbooks with new covers and the same exact lessons contained between the covers. Sure, the state standards that were previously cited are now replaced with Common Core State Standards (CCSS). But, the lessons and assignments are the same as last year’s edition.
- Textbooks with new covers and additional lessons interspersed in the book, but the new lessons have no connection to the rest of the material.
For instance, my colleague evaluated a new “Common Core Aligned” algebra 1 textbook against its previous edition and found it contained new material addressing recursion. Now, recursion is contained within the CCSS algebra strand and therefore should be part of the book. The problem is that the book never references recursion after this lesson. Students never use recursive routines to build their understanding of linearity—it is simply taught as a “fun math fact.” That is analogous to students learning about the passage of the Civil Rights Act and then never discussing or evaluating its effect on American society afterward!
Rather than looking for labels and correlations that claim coverage of material, we should understand where our new standards come from. They are NOT handed down from divine intervention (there are no burning bushes associated with this document). These standards are built upon foundational pieces that came before. To quote from the CCSS document:
“These practices rest on important “processes and proficiencies” with longstanding importance in mathematics education. The first of these are the NCTM process standards of problem solving, reasoning and proof, communication, representation, and connections. The second are the strands of mathematical proficiency specified in the National Research Council’s report Adding It Up”
If you are evaluating materials for their alignment to the CCSS math standards, look for materials that are built upon this same foundational thinking. Both the NCTM Standards and Adding It Up have been around for 10 years. There are materials written by authors who took to heart what these documents stand for, just as the CCSS authors also found inspiration in them.
I believe the embodiment of what these documents stand for is in this paragraph from Adding It Up:
“The mathematics students need to learn today is not the same mathematics that their parents and grandparents needed to learn. When today’s students become adults, they will face new demands for mathematical proficiency that school mathematics should attempt to anticipate. Moreover, mathematics is a realm no longer restricted to a select few. All young Americans must learn to think mathematically, and they must think mathematically to learn.”
Therefore, if the math in a “Common Core Aligned” textbook looks like the math you experienced as a student, put it down. It is not aligned to anything other than a marketing plan.